School supplies, backpacks and new tennis shoes aren’t the only things parents need to begin thinking about as their child prepares to return to school.
July is Adolescent Immunization Awareness Month, and local and state health care officials are urging parents to make sure their child is protected from certain vaccine-preventable diseases.
According to Jo Ellen Naylor, RN, with the Sampson County Health Department, most parents think of babies when they hear the word immunizations. However, she urges everyone to understand the importance of keeping preteens and teens up to date on their vaccinations.
Recommended immunizations for adolescents include the influenza vaccine and the HPV (Human papillomavirus). Required immunizations include Meningococcal and Tdap vaccines.
“When not vaccinated, our teens are at significantly higher risk for diseases, and can spread those disease into their school community,” North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians president Charles Rhodes, MD, said. “Preteen and teenagers face potentially life-threatening diseases including meningitis and cancers caused by HPV.”
The Tdap vaccine is a required vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. According to Naylor, The Tdap vaccine is required for children entering 7th grade or by 12 years of age, whichever comes first, if the child has not previously received a booster dose.
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection spread by respiratory secretions from coughing and sneezing. It can be spread by living in close quarters and by kissing. Naylor said the meningococcal vaccine is required for preteens and teens. One dose is required for a child starting 7th grade or by 12 years of age, whichever comes first. A second dose will be required for children starting the 12th grade or by 17 years of age beginning Aug. 1, 2020. A second dose is highly recommended now for children going to a college or university especially when living in a dorm.
“It is very important for your child to be up to date on immunizations,” Naylor said. “Under North Carolina law, all school children must be up to date on their immunizations within 30 days of entering school.”
Influenza, or flu, is a very contagious viral infection that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. The virus is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. According to Naylor, the flu vaccine should be given every year at the beginning of flu season.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that is passed through sexual contact. It commonly affects people in their teens and early 20’s. The HPV vaccine should be given to boys and girls beginning at age 11. The HPV vaccine is a two or three dose series, depending on the age of the child when the series is started.
“Whether a vaccine is recommended or required, all children should receive all age appropriate immunizations,” Naylor urged. “Most insurance companies pay for immunizations. If a child is not covered by insurance or is underinsured, there is a program called Vaccines for Children (VFC) that is federally funded that pays for children’s vaccines.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.